What to Wear for Apple Picking: Hermessence Ambre Narguile

This past weekend I headed to our local orchard to be surprised at some early apples to be had. I adore this time of year. Apples are part of what makes autumn. Greedily I scooped some up and watched Mrs. C roll her eyes when I exclaimed, “Apple pie!” I spent my afternoon putting it together. If there is any scent which means fall to me it is an apple pie fresh out of the oven. There is a perfume which does a fantastic job of recreating it, Hermessence Ambre Narguile.

The Hermessence line was created in 2004 by in-house perfumer at the time Jean-Claude Ellena. This was a collection which reflected his minimalistic approach to composition along with his ability to add a luminous quality. Back when this collection debuted with four fragrances it stood apart from almost everything else in the artistic perfumery world. These were the early days and M. Ellena was staking out a section of it all his own. For the next twelve years and nine more perfumes it became one of the best collections out there. This is a set of perfumes of which I own all of them. They are everything I look for in the world of perfume.

Jean-Claude Ellena

That’s the Colognoisseur talking. Mark the apple pie maker loves Ambre Narguile because it so ideally captures the scent of a cooling apple pie. Another thing to consider is that it was an early very different entry in the gourmand style of perfume. At this early point of time they were heavy cloying affairs. Amber Narguile was subtle to their sledgehammers. The beautiful trick is that M. Ellena creates an apple pie without using apple in the formula. What happens is his understanding of intersections of ingredients to give rise to something new.

It opens with that cinnamon flavored apple pie accord. Early on it is subtle like the steam rising from the pie as it comes out of the oven. It begins to take on a larger presence as it “cools”. I do not know exactly the combination M. Ellena uses here. It is some parts honey, another part amber, some coumarin, some cinnamon, and vanilla. Even after all these years I am sure I don’t have it all. I have just learned to enjoy it.

As it develops further a dollop of dark rum along with rich tobacco form the base to the apple pie. They add depth without turning it treacly.

Ambre Narguile has 10-12 hour longevity.

After making the apple pie this weekend I was driven to want to write about this perfume. it doesn’t really fit any of my usual monthly themes. Although I had a fleeting thought to try and claim it was Under the Radar. Sometimes I choose the perfume to write about. This time apples and Ambre Narguile chose me.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

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